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Having two kids of different genders, I certainly know how too many toys can pile up and how difficult and tricky it can be to adopt toy minimalism without feeling like you are a bad parent, ruining their childhood.
Yet I remember that when I was a child I would entertain myself playing outdoors most of the time, in the garden climbing up the trees or building ‘mud houses’ for the earthworms. At other times I would spend time with friends: riding bikes, running, inventing our own board games and lots of pretend plays.
I did have toys, though I don’t remember their number and I vividly remember just a handful of them. But I do remember playing tennis with my friends, building dens or making paper boats to float on puddles.
Remembering my own childhood, reading studies and books and noticing my kids better, I understood that…The number of toys my kids have don’t make me a good or bad parent. Kids don’t need toys to be happy or creative. Click To Tweet
On the contrary, toys can at times stand in the way of their imagination. So let’s see talk.
Why are fewer toys better? – 10 reasons
Children are less overwhelmed, more focused, their attention span improves
I remember at some point kids had so many toys that they couldn’t actually “see” them or focus on any of them, so I would hear them say “I don’t know what to play with…”. Has it ever happened to you to think “hm, it looks as if the more toys they have, the less they play with them”?
I totally understand them, it does get overwhelming to have too many choices and too many things around you. Even when they finally pull out a toy to play with, within minutes their attention might be drawn by something else.
Toys minimalism means the kids have more space to play and learn, they can see their options more clearly and can choose more easily, they no longer get overstimulated and therefore can focus better on what they are doing.
Fewer toys mean more time to play
Trying to decide what to play with when you have too many options takes time. This can be gained when there is less stuff around you, so it’s easier to decide.
Also, focusing on a certain game means you get to play longer then you would have played if your attention would’ve been drawn by some other toy every few minutes.
Tidying up toys is more manageable
“It’s tidy-up time!” when the room is full of toys can be really overwhelming for a kid: “Where does all this stuff go? What should I do with all of this?”. But when there are fewer toys, each with a designated storage place, tidy-up time is no longer a battle or a burden and kids are able to clean up the play area all by themselves, which is quite empowering.
What’s more, the tidy up time is shorter as there are less toys to tidy up! Hence, more time to play.
Children become more independent
The result of the two points mentioned earlier – kids can choose and decide what to play with and they can manage the tidy-up by themselves – means they are more independent, which makes them more confident.
Children become more resilient
When you have many options, it’s easy to give up on a toy when it becomes too challenging in favour of an easier one. But when you don’t have too many options, when things become challenging, you persevere. This happens with kids as well and this helps them practise their patience and determination.
Creativity, resourcefulness and imagination spark more often
Kids have natural creativity and wonderful imagination and when they don’t rely on toys to entertain themselves, they will invent so many games and stories and constructions that they will amaze us.
Truth be told, kids don’t need any toy at all to be happy and creative, they can build a den with a sheet and two chairs or they can be superheroes with the same sheet used to build the den!
There is more time to be spent with the family and outdoors
Kids who have less toys are more willing to help their parents around the house – cooking, doing the dishes or sorting the laundry. Also, they go outside more often as nature becomes their source of inspiration and entertainment.
Kids learn to make mindful decisions
Toys minimalism means kids get to decide what to buy in the first place, and also what to keep. They get to practice making decisions and being conscious consumers, realizing what they actually need and want and the value of things. They learn that more or bigger doesn’t necessarily mean better.
Children appreciate more what they already have
When you have a hundred pens, is any pen special or do you appreciate any? But when you have only two, chances are, they are special, they might even have memories attached to them. The same happens with toys: when the room is filled to the ceiling with toys, most of them will not be special and will have no memory attached to them.
When there are fewer toys, kids actually manage to notice them, to recall memories attached to them and they learn to care for them. This is also a step towards teaching kids gratitude, encouraging them to appreciate what they have.
Siblings get to practice their sharing and cooperation skills
Siblings rivalry is natural and it’s the ‘fight’ over the same resources, mainly parents’ love and attention. But it can also manifest itself as a ‘fight’ over toys.
When there are a lot of toys, each child tries to establish a territory. When there are fewer toys, they have no choice but to find a way to collaborate, to find a solution that works for both of them. And having too many or duplicate toys doesn’t offer the chance to learn and practise all these skills.
What and how many toys should a child have?
In case you are worried that adopting a minimalist lifestyle might interfere with your kids’ childhood, just remember that nature and the surrounding environment are always at their disposal – you must have noticed kids absolutely love a metal pot and a lid, some rice or sand to play with or some stones to throw in the water.
Still, just to cover the topic of toys and their educational and fun roles throughout childhood, I’ve created a list with the main categories of toys that benefit kids development. Please note that none of these is necessary and your child doesn’t have to have a toy from each category, it’s just for you to have a better idea of what toys might be of use to your kid.
As this post is quite long already, I created a FREE printable that you can easily receive in your inbox.
What do you do when your child has too many toys?
There is a lot to talk about on the topic of toy minimalism and reducing toy clutter, so I wrote a post that includes 4 easy steps to start toy decluttering with kids and ideas to get them on board through a respectful parenting approach. I also talk about sustainable toy minimalism, so I hope you enjoy it.
Photos: personal archive